Tribute to Elizabeth II, former Queen of PNG
Recent Notes 1: On Recent Notes

Coda: On finally realising the game is up

KEITH JACKSON

KJ

 

MOST RECENT UPDATE: FRIDAY 28 JULY

Seventeen and a half years is quite a haul. By the time I reached that age, I was six months into my training as a student teacher (official designation 'Cadet Education Officer') at the Australian School of Administration, ASOPA, established in cold, weatherbeaten World War II Army barracks on Middle Head in Sydney. 

Successful completion of the course meant a posting to what was then the Territory of Papua and New Guinea: the former an Australian colony; the latter governed on a mandate from the United Nations.

Yes, there is a link of sorts. After seventeen and a half years, PNG Attitude (originally ASOPA People) ceased publication on Wednesday, 12 July, 2023. Here, in what I expect to be my final piece,  I want to explain why I feel I cannot go on.

As news of my decision spread, concerned readers and contributors responded in an explosion of emails, texts and tweets. This reinforced for me the value of people's long-standing support of this one-man project. It was my connection with good people who wanted to participate and help, whether upfront on the blog or through email back channels, that kept me going on many occasions when I thought the endpoint was near.

This time, however, I have indefinitely suspended the production of PNG Attitude. Its rich content will remain as long as possible, to preserve accessibility (17,200 posts, 51,500 comments and other archival material) . But, apart from the current process of winding up, this will not be an active website. 

I have since come to understand that there must be an important exception to leaving this site lie fallow. 

The Recent Comments column grew in importance as the blog matured and within it there has amassed much significant information and dialogue, and many valuable stories, observations and corrections.

When with the blog a year old, I realised Recent Comments had taken on a life of its own, and despite an offer from the Typepad platform to limit the lifespan of readers' remarks, I decided it must remain intact in perpetuity.

Thankfully, this is something I'm able to manage in hours of clarity. And reading what you have to say is usually a great pleasure.

I must apologise for the haste and lack of notice of closure. I'd been struggling to maintain the blog for some time and had gradually been winding it down, seeking to keep publishing, even minimally.  

The decline in the quantity of content was not due to losing readers. Although, as the blog waned this year, there was a drop from an average of 2,250 to 1,750 discrete readers a day.

The current statistics have settled to about 750 readers a day as Recent Comments ploughs on. Recent Notes, added to deal with information provided by readers, may increase this number . 

Many of you will know, and I have made no secret of it, that I've been ill with ME/CFS for many years. It was diagnosed in 2001 by Professor Denis Wakefield at St Vincent's in Sydney and worsened rapidly, forcing me to retire as CEO of Jackson Wells Morris, the public relations company I had founded in 1991.

After the diagnosis, my health oscillated between acceptable and impossible. For the most part, I was stuck in a pattern that gave me two or three good hours a day, sometimes as much as as a whole day.  I could go for a morning walk, keep in touch with the company by email, but  was unable to work at full capacity nor with consistency and predictability.

It was a contradictory and confounding time for me. In 2003, when I stepped down, the company had recorded its highest annual  revenue, it employed 23 people and it was ranked as one of the five top Australian-owned PR firms.

It was my pride and joy, but I no longer had the energy to manage it, and in my degraded state, I had developed anxiety about undertaking complex work and participating in pitches and high-level meetings.  Sometimes I had difficulty in expressing myself coherently or not understanding a question or following a discussion.

This state continues today, but worse. I'm in a cognitive haze for many hours a day and beset by a physical exhaustion that is unrelieved by sleep. I spend much time bed- or chair-bound, relying on medication to provide relief. At times I'm fine, but I never know which Keith Jackson will appear - the good one or the bad one - and when or for how long. 

Back in 2003, after a couple of years trying to crash through all this, I handed over my CEO's position to a business partner who had been with the company from nearly the beginning.

It turned out to be a succession that failed to succeed. The firm's performance deteriorated and by 2007  it had experienced a two-thirds drop in revenue. There as no commensurate reduction in spending. The company was quickly going broke. So in mid-2007 I returned to my desk for a shaky month managing a comprehensive restructure and downsizing - that dreadful euphemism for telling people they no longer have a job.

Jackson Wells Morris never again reached its previous heights and, despite the slashing and burning, its decline continued. In 2012 I returned to my desk once more, this time to arrange an orderly liquidation of the company and to shut its doors for good.

By the time I established PNG Attitude in February 2006, I had been ill for six years. But I figured that my fickle health would be compensated by contributions from other people.

Also I wanted to encourage more writers from PNG to reveal themselves. There was great hesitancy amongst Papua New Guineans writers about placing their work, especially if it involved criticism, in the public arena. Tall poppies are cut down just as readily in PNG as they are in Australia.

Author and former kiap Phil Fitzpatrick had become a major contributor to the blog and in 2010 suggested half jokingly that PNG Attitude organise a writing contest. I thought that, working with a partner, this was something I could do. The idea soon grew into a plan to initiate a system of literary awards in PNG.

So the Crocodile Prize was born, a contest restricted to Papua New Guineans. Readers and PNG business organisations provided funds for prizemoney and the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby helped by hosting an event at which the award winners were announced.

Anthology Cover 2011
Cover of the first Crocodile Prize Anthology published in September 2011

We  announced the first contest at the end of 2010 and in September 2011 the first four awards were presented at a function hosted by the High Commission. At the same time we launched the first Crocodile Prize Anthology, a 190-page book containing the best entries. By 2014, it had grown into a massive 500-page volume.

The Crocodile Prize engendered a literary revolution in PNG. And under Fitzpatrick's guiding hand, it spun off a publishing operation - Pukpuk Publications - which over the next few years was to publish more than 50 books, most of them the work of Papua New Guinean authors.

The excellent ballast and stabilisation provided to the blog by the support of scores of people in Australia and PNG meant that, even though I could not forecast the sudden and severe ME/CFS slumps, I could continue to publish and edit a substantive website. Our goal of enhancing the person-to-person relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia had developed traction.

PNG Attitude turned out to be a marvellous project, its success driven by the combined efforts of many people collaborating as unpaid volunteers. The blog, the Crocodile Prize, Pukpuk Publications, training, mentoring and study tours were developed.

Sadly, the PNG government showed no interest in the initiative and, when High Commissioner Ian Kemish left PNG, the Australian government's support disappeared.

Phil Fitzpatrick's book, Fighting For A Voice (available through Amazon) tells the fascinating story of PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize.

As for me, the physical and cognitive effects of ME/CFS continued to waver between total dislocation and  periods of remission. I could see, amongst the constant fluctuations, a remorseless downward-trending curve.

At one point, around the time PNG Attitude began in 2006, I experienced a longish remission that seemed to augur a full recovery. My doctors thought I might be one of the fortunate five percent who, for some inexplicable reason, recover. The symptoms did recur from time to time, but mostly they were mild and done with after a couple of days. However, the illness returned, relentlessly worsening to a point where, by 2022, I was effectively an invalid, largely trapped at home and compelled to greatly limit activity, whether social events, driving or even short walks.

ME/CFS is a strange illness with  scores of symptoms which, in various permutations, are triggered by life’s commonplace stresses or by what the brain interprets as inordinate physical or mental activity.

In its worst form, it can deliver an extreme response - a bodily ‘crash’ (sometimes called a 'flare' or 'relapse') which, as the word suggests, is a sudden and severe physical and cognitive descent to a bedridden state. This year, the crashes became more frequent, escalating to 20 or more a month, leaving me in an almost continuous state of debility, cognitive failure, great fatigue and sickness. 

A crash disrupts clarity of thought, muffles memory, extinguishes meaning in what people are saying, it can even steal my voice. A crash usually lasts for two or three hours and has a long, debilitating tail extending for many days.

As my condition significantly worsened this year, I began to understand that I needed to recalibrate how I led my life. I needed to compute how much I could intelligently fit into each day. I needed to find an equilibrium between sedentary and active, which would try to keep the crashes at bay and allow me a reasonable continuing state of satiety and sanity.

On Wednesday 12 July I fully realised that, to find that equilibrium, I had to better manage activities that which didn't push me so hard my dysfunctional brain would shut me down. I had already eliminated most work and social activity but had to do more to give mind and body a chance to stabilise.

I had to apply sterner limits to my activity to avoid the crashes that were driving me deeper and deeper into the illness. I knew that ME/CFS could get far, far worse.

So I realised that I'd published PNG Attitude for as long as I could, I had to cut back. The game was up.

Comments

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Norma Burk

Wow, this post truly resonates with me. Coming to terms with the realisation that something has run its course can be both liberating and bittersweet.

Embracing change and moving forward takes courage, and your words beautifully capture the mix of emotions that accompany such moments.

Here's to new beginnings and the wisdom that comes from acknowledging when the game is up. 🌟🌱 #EmbracingChange #NewBeginnings
_________

Thanks Norma, and of course you're right. But, as I replied to a message from a valued contributor overnight, writing is a compulsion and "while I write, I’m not ill, until the devil eventually- and too quickly these days - catches up with me. Then I’m allowed my regrets." That said, at the moment, writing less and only when I feel well enough is a nice compromise - KJ

Joseph Tambure

Keith I would like to say thank you for the great service you have given to PNG as a teacher and later as the editor/publisher of PNG Attitude. Through you, many of us are realising our potential talents to be writers.

May our written words and yours live on for generations, as is meant to be. I would like to dedicate this last poem to you and others who have hearts for PNG and served to see change.

That Final Day

At last that day arrives
In slow motion,not a surprise
To hang up my boots
To fold my pants up
To hang my hat
A feeling of fullness surrounds
Expecting it and now
That day finally arrives

This day is upon me
A reality that turns me back
To tidy up my table
To close my books
To shut down computers
A feeling of sadness overwhelms
But accomplishments triumphs
Today I reflect back many years

Today is a wonderful day
Started on a wonderful day
Finished off on a wonderful day
To lock away my toolbox
To say goodbyes to friends and colleagues
To finalize my departure
Gratitude and farewells side by side
A day I can't skip

Today is my last day
And will cherish for long
To shake and hug
To give and take presents
To recite stories of old
And stepping back into idleness
Good bye all,see you around
For my final day has caught me red-handed

Keith, thank you and God Bless.

Barbara Short

Sorry to hear about the end of PNG Attitude. You've done a great job despite your health problems.

Glad that PNG Attitude articles will still be available online.

Hope you will still find ways to keep your mind active and be able to enjoy life. Growing old is not for the faint-hearted. God bless.

Raymond Sigimet

Keith, thank you for giving me your patience, space and time to be part of your friends and family on PNG Attitude.

Your contribution is immense. I write this with a heavy heart.

CHERISHED WORDS

I still cherish those first words
Strings of harmonious chords

I will not forget their worth
Spoken with sincerest thought

I wonder about their measures
Entangled down many years

Gifting me revelations
Ticking off recollections

The thoughtful anecdotes
The inspirational quotes

These I cherish as I rummage
Through these maiden messages

Chiselled on life's pages
To live on down the ages
________

It has been my great pleasure to work with you, Raymond. Thanks for your thoughtfulness in penning that beautiful poetry - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

Agreed, Phil, like I was won over some time back by the '-tic' and grin of a 'Cheshire cat'.

Bri Olewale

So sorry, just reading this now,

More than happy to contribute articles to keep the blog going. Could some of us take over the editing?

Would be a shame for you to have built something and then for it to fade away

But in any case, prayers for your ongoing health and quality of life, and thank you for creating a space online that provided some interesting and thought provoking articles that I enjoyed reading.
_________

Thanks for your suggestion, Bri, I appreciate it. But this would be a difficult place to simply hand over. And at present I couldn't hand it over in a complex way - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

Great poem Chips and a great poetic retort from Keith.

Keeping the Comments going is working well - hope it lasts for a while.

Michael Kabuni

Dear Keith wantok blo mi,

I read this piece with a heavy heart, but pray for your heath.

What you did for PNG writers words cannot express.

I would have given up blogging a long time ago, but was encouraged by you editing my blogs from Academia Nomad, and republishing it with your vast network.

I always looked forward to you republishing a better and refined version of my blogs.

I have never met you in person, but your influence on my writing has been immense. I will cherish the help and opportunity you gave to PNG writers.

Mate you are a great man. A true Wantok. A beautiful Australian.

Wish you all the best my Wantok.
_______

Tenkyu tru, Michael, mitupla no sekan tasol yu yu olsem wantok or barata blo mi. Yu nambawan raita tu, raita husat iken kariim ol mipla insait bilum blo tru.

One of the disappointments of my decision - which I had to make for my own good - was to surrender to my health the editing of other people's words. With you and some few others, this task was like polishing a precious stone. The editor must take great care and be faithful to the author. It can be exacting work.

But I can still read your great insights into the condition of Papua New Guinea. I hope to be able to do that for a long time yet. And maybe I can go back editing again. And maybe, one day, we will meet. I hope so - KJ

Chips Mackellar

Well done Keith, you ran a good race,
Kept up for years at such a brisk pace,
And now you have earned a well deserved rest,
So sit back and remember you gave us your best,
With the Crocodile Prize a literary contest,
Which conferred upon us your gracious bequest,
That we should now write with flair and with skill,
And in years from now we'll remember you still.

For the PNG Attitude which you gave to us,
As a forum for writing and ideas to discuss,
And many a good yarn it published with pride,
About places in which our thoughts now abide,
And events we know we will never forget,
And the times we recall and the people we met,
And we owe it to you for your skill and your drive,
So God bless you Keith, may you continue to thrive.
_________

Well thank you, Dr Chips, you laureate poet,
Who hates blank verse and ensures we all know it,
You writer of yarns that are wonderfully lusty,
R-rated stories of the curvaceous and busty.

Also a fine poem, it's called The Last Patrol,
We all must respond to the call of that roll,
But before this ensues, and we finally pass,
We can consider with pride that we got off our arse.

And brimful of youth's spirit (and the hard stuff as well),
We took to New Guinea and did pretty well,
A nation was built and, despite all the blether,
We did it all right and we did it together.

So when the time comes and the eulogies are read,
And instead of dead drunk we are quite simply dead,
A legacy awe-inspiring we've left in our wake,
Papua New Guinea, it was no piece of cake.

Back then in the tropics, the days of our youth,
Hard ones but good ones, and that is the truth.
Now names unremembered, no statues of note,
But wait, there's the words, the words that we wrote.
- KJ


George Panao

Dear Keith, thank you for your contribution over the years in enhancing the friendship and relationship between our two countries.

All good things must come to an end and you truly deserve this break. Praying for your health and wishing you all the best in the future.

Ian Taukuro‬

Sorry tru. Every best wish to you. Thank you for the wonderfully insightful articles.

David Bridie

I'm sorry to hear that Keith. Your commitment, passion and belief in young brilliant PNG writers, and your illumination of a narapela kain piksa long PNG, has enlightened and informed so many people including myself over the years. Shine on.

Will Muskens

An infrequent visit to your excellent blog this morning and the awful revelation that you are ill is dreadful news and I'm so sorry that you finally had to succumb to the perverse consequences of ME/CFS.

I can't imagine how difficult the past 20 years since your diagnosis must have been for you and it's to your immense credit that you have been able to stay in the saddle for so many years, it is profound testimony to both your strength of character and courage, old friend!

Let's hope now that you're a free spirit that your days have stabilised to enable you to savour the smell of roses and observe the wonders of nature!

Rashmi Amoah Bell

It has been a very long time, and if not for checking Instagram a few moments ago and coming across a post by Duncan Gabi, I wouldn’t have known your announcement to cease PNG Attitude to focus on managing your health. I am so very sad and sorry to hear/ read on both accounts.

I need to say - thank you for the depths of my heart for everything you’ve done for me over the years, personally and as a writer, and the life changing impact it has had for me near a decade on.

I wish you strength, rest and well managed health, knowing that you are loved, appreciated, respected and admired by so many Papua New Guineans, and all. The Comments on the Attitude say it all. It is beyond overwhelming, the news this morning.

Stephen Charteris

Keith, this is sad indeed but not unexpected. Your pauses in recent times heralded an end point but of course we lived in hope it wouldn’t actually happen. It has taken a while to fully sink in.

I don’t have words to express how grateful I am are for what you created with PNG Attitude. It has been my daily go to page for around a decade.

The articles and commentary have provided a veritable army of diverse thinkers and writers, that share a common bond, a platform to voice their thoughts, hopes and concerns for a special place.

It has been the one and maybe only platform where heartfelt sentiments unfettered by academic rigour or undue restraint have found a voice. There are a host of truths contained within its pages you will not find elsewhere.

Thank you for your magnificent visionary effort. All the best to you and yours for the journey ahead.

Marlene Dee Gray Potoura

Thank you Keith Jackson, for being a friend and mentor. Through PNG Attitude, you reached out to me and helped me deal with the struggles I encountered in Lae.

Know that you have touched my life immensely and I will be forever grateful. May your path be blessed and paved with the legacy that you have helped numerous writers like me reach new heights and potential.

Arthur Smedley

Thinking of you. While I was aware of your ongoing health issues, I am saddened to learn of the more recent changes to your condition.

As for the website, I have enjoyed it so much over the years, but unfortunately the time comes when things must change. My very best wishes for the future.

John Highfield

Keith (and Ingrid), those of us who've been lucky enough to be in close proximity to you, even if fleetingly in life-span, want to say a BIG thankyou for that and for all the good things you have given.

Again, with your writing of the unfortunate news on PNG Attitude, you have once again shown us on the professional side what a magnificent wordsmith and communication master you are!

On the personal side, a wonderful, warm and engaging person who has overcome very personal difficulties to make, alongside Ingrid and your family, not only your own immediate patch but the wider world, a better place. Our gratitude.

David and Rosemarie Ransom

Only now do I realise how much you have achieved under such onerous conditions, day in day out. Extraordinary.

The huge number of posts, contributions and comments is clear testament to how readers appreciated PNG Attitude. You obviously tapped a vein into the blog with the same enthusiasm you showed to your job when you worked in PNG.

Certainly readers will miss your blog. That you have persevered with it for as long as you have is a tribute to you and a lesson to us all.

Irene Niksemos

Tenk yu tumas for the great work of the PNG Attitude blog, Keith! Wishing you good health and well-being.

Michael Dom

God bless you, Keith Jackson.

Thank you for your fortitude, endurance and grace.

Col Young

You provided relatively safe passage for PNG people to express their political views, especially in respect of the corruption that is blighting their society.

You have fought the good fight. You have gained recognition and admiration for this. You will have many friendly ghosts at your bedside when you eventually pass.
________

I think that's a nice thought, Col, but I'm not quite ready. One thing Phil and I did observe down the years, and you do refer to it, was truly marvellous.

Papua New Guineans - not big shots but people like us - writing really good stuff under their own names. Not A. Nonymous, but real people telling good stories, and later writing good books, under their own names - KJ

Kindin Ongugo

Hi Keith - Thank you for the wonderful journey.
It will be hard to forget you or PNG Attitude.

I hope you would still have time for coffee with any Kumul friend when they call in at Noosa at short notice. Wakai weh.
________

Coffee, or whatever takes your fancy, Kindin. I may not be up to much but I can still be with my friends - KJ

Loisca Iboro

I'm sorry to hear that, Keith. Found one of my top three favourite poems on your blog and would regularly visit to read articles by Father Garry Roche when I missed home. Take care.

Nena DRK Moang

Vava Uncle, I will surely miss your blog. Always looked forward to reading your latest blog. Tanikiu badaherea. Vava madi. I wish you steady recovery and may the grace of our Lord heal you.

Charlene Nii

You have created an outstanding site where no one else ever did.

You have listened to us day and night expressing our emotions and thoughts and you stood by and made sure that everyone got the message.

Thank you, papa Keith, may the good Lord grant you good health.

Dominica Are

Well wishes, Keith, and thank you for going above and beyond to keeping PNG Attitude running throughout these years.

I am thankful I stumbled upon PNG Attitude in 2012 and glad I got to contribute. Most importantly it has opened new doors for me in my writing journey. I don’t think I can ever thank you (and Phil) enough.

Take good care of yourself.

Leo Carroll

Well done,good and faithful servant of PNG. Poroman tru bilong yu, Leo Carroll.
________

Tenkyu tru wantok. Ating yu stap gut. Here's to the good times - KJ

Dr Bal Kama

I’m very sorry to hear this, Keith. Really hope you recover.

The blog has been a credible source of public discourse over many years on PNG-Australia matters. I have benefited much from its rich content and also been humbled to contribute.

It has been to writers, poets, academics, activists and many others a place of reason, expression and inspiration. Thank you very much Keith for your special service to PNG.

You created a platform for missing voices to be heard in books, poetry and blog posts. A big heart you’ve shown and will be remembered.

Look after yourself, blessings to you and family. Would love to catch up with you if ever in Qld, though chances may be slim. Take care.

Joe Herman

Dear Keith - Thank you for the enormous contributions you have made in developing and assisting Papua New Guinean writers.

Your legacy will live on in PNG. Best wishes to you and your family.

Gregory Bablis

Avinun tru Keith. I’ve just learnt of your permanently discontinuing PNG Attitude and of your ill-health.

PNG Attitude was like the online gatekeeper for PNG-related information, more so than any other government website, even the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority.

It seems like a big void now being created. I wanted to thank you for all your assistance with various questions I've come to you for help with leads regarding my studies. I really appreciate it. Tenkiu, tenkiu!

But more importantly your health must take priority and it's a wonder you've managed the extra work of running the blog. I wish you well, with lots of rest and mending.

Corney Korokan Alone

Your rare sensitivity and thoughtful bridge-building across the Torres Strait through the PNG Attitude blog has been remarkable.

Multitudes have been inspired and stirred to share their voice so will cherish that connection.

Well done. Be strong as you battle that demon.

Johnny Blades

Sad to hear this, because your blog has been so very good for so long, but also because ME/CFS sucks.

Congrats on all you’ve achieved with PNG Attitude: many terrific stories and much great writing by you and others.

All the best to you and family, Keith. Kia kaha.

Stefan Armbruster

All the very best, Keith. Thanks for all the excellent work on the blog and I will keep an eye on those tweets (or other things).

Dr John C Christie

Well done Keith. Sorry that PNG Attitude has come to an end. For those of us who cherish our time in PNG, Attitude was a way of both reliving the past and commenting on PNG's future.

It gave a voice to those who wanted to call out the corruption eating PNG society as well as offering a platform to emerging PNG authors and artists.

Hopefully the platform will be taken on by another like minded altruistic volunteer. You have been a true pioneer.

Best wishes for your future.

Arnold Mundua

I am very sad to read this, Keith.

PNG Attitude exposed and created many aspiring writers over the years and you have been great all along.

I thank you for what PNG Attitude has been and has done for me personally over the years since I came to know the blog.

Thank you, Keith.

Slim Kaikai

Dear Keith - Wow! Sori tru.Was a great ride, gunna miss it bigtaim. Same speed! Thanks.

Betty Wakia

It’s so sad to hear this news today. PNG Attitude has shaped and molded me to be the writer I am today.

Tank yu tru, Keith, you’re truly heaven sent.

Bernard Corden

Dear Keith - Many thanks to the Bard of Treacle Town. I have really cherished your articulate thoughts and discernment over the past decade.

"The exhaustion of old age is something people who are younger don’t fully appreciate" - Tony Benn

Pauline P-Kama

Sori tru wantok. Thank you. Peace and healing 🙏🏽

Peter Ryan OAM

Best wishes, Keith.

Andrew Ecclestone

Like many others, I’m sad to read this. I only found PNG Attitude this year before travelling to the country for work, but it was interesting and helpful.

As someone with much milder ME, I feel for your pain – and no doubt frustration. Look after yourself and thank you.
_________

I wish you all the best, brother - KJ

David Robie | Café Pacific

Kia Ora Keith – Shocked and saddened to read your announcement on Twitter about the blog and about your condition. I confess I had to look it up – doesn’t sound good at all.

Bernard Yegiora

Highly recommended blog for my students. Sori tru.

Dikisini Taunagita

Sad to read this. I learnt a lot from PNG Attitude.

Bee Duresi

One of the blogs I follow closely. Sorry to hear. Sending you love and positive thoughts.

Ben Felton

Sori tru, mi luvim blog blo yu.

Emilie

Your blog should be included in the National Archives of Australia as it is a wonderful reference for anyone interested in PNG. Sorry to read about your illness.
________

Thanks Emilie. The blog is archived by the National Library of Australia - KJ


Fiona Hukula

Thank you and take care, Keith.

Mahalopa Laveil

Very sorry to hear. Thanks for the great work and best wishes.

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